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The article first appeared on the Vogue.
“Presence is the key. Now is the answer.” These fragments of speech were intoned somewhere midway during the overwhelming onslaught of computer-generated imagery that bombarded the audience seated in a tunnel at the Balenciaga show. “I always had this idea of a video tunnel, like being inside someone’s digital mind,” said Demna Gvasalia. “Fashion shows are for transporting people, otherwise there’s no point. It was like working on a movie, getting people into another reality, so it stays as a memory.”
The project came together when he met digital artist Jon Rafman at Art Basel. Rafman was on hand to talk about the creation of the immersive experience. It had the audience so stunned that people were transfixed in their seats for a good few seconds after it ended, trying to process what they’d just seen. “My work explores new technologies and how our society, our consciousness, our interrelationships have changed,” Rafman said. He and Gvasalia collaborated at a distance, with full creative freedom given to the artist. “It was a marriage of kindred spirits,” Rafman added.
Well, being in that tunnel, you couldn’t help but feel you were present. Dealing with focusing on the present, with all the roiling complexities, dissonances, and noise and distractions of the world around us provided the backdrop for the collection. This time, Gvasalia was intent on tackling what modern clothing might be and how it can rationally make sense to a new generation. “I wanted to take a lot of things that are in our vocabulary, but give it this new dimension of elegance,” he said.
The first looks out were a continuation and refinement of the 3-D molding technique Gvasalia introduced last season: a series of femme-fatale replicants in strong-shoulder, nipped-waist coats. Given the visual drama of the digital magma erupting all around, it could have strayed into a dystopian sci-fi zone, but Gvasalia had other ideas. “We challenged ourselves to make tailoring for today’s generation. How can they wear a suit—which they never do?” he explained. The solution he called “neo-tailoring”—fluid shirt-jackets with matching trousers, for men and women alike. “It’s like a jogging suit, but it looks super-elegant in shape. There’s no obligation to wear a shirt and tie, because the jacket has become the shirt. Somehow,” he said, laughing, “this is what I want to wear myself.”
Read more on the Vogue.